The Underlying Tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut

ConnecticutshootingsLook, I don’t have anything profound to add on the shooting in Connecticut. I was travelling all day Friday from a work trip in Austin, Texas. I heard about it from my cab driver, a Moroccan immigrant with two small children of his own. He could barely contain his tears as he asked me if I heard the news. If this shooting doesn’t prompt a difficult discussion from our political leaders on both sides of the aisle on firearms and mental health, then nothing will.

The sad thing is, the Connecticut shooting was the eighth mass shooting in America this year. The EIGHTH! As Roger Ebert so depressingly put it: “What’s different about about the Newtown Massacre? Not very much.”

That’s the real story here. Yes, the killing of kids is a tragedy. But, aside from who was killed, the event itself has become so commonplace in America. 

There have been 31 school shootings since Columbine in 1999. The rate of people killed by guns in the US is 19.5 times higher than similar high-income countries in the world. Since 1982, America has mourned at least 61 mass murders. In 2010, the most recent year statistics are available for, there were 606 accidental gun deaths in America — more than combined total gun deaths in Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Japan, Ireland, and Denmark.

The point is: the US has such a gun violence problem that we have more accidental deaths related to firearms than the combined purposeful gun deaths from other developed nations. We didn’t have the debate over guns in America after Columbine. We didn’t have it after Virginia Tech. We didn’t have it after Aurora, Colo. We didn’t have it after Gabby Giffords in Arizona. We probably wont’ have it now either.

And next year, we’ll be year again, lamenting the deaths of another group of people in another town in America that will forever connect the name of the town to a tragic episode of gun violence. We’ll wonder how someone could do such a thing. We’ll question their motives. We’ll wildly speculate until we’re blue in our faces. We’ll remorse for the victims and families.

We’ll dedicate episodes of SNL and have charity concerts to raise money for those in need. Our professional sports teams will plaster special patches on their uniforms in a sign of support. And then, we’ll forget. And go about our lives until another incident in another town prompts the cycle all over again.

But, we’ll never do the one thing we have to do as a country. We’ll never get all interested parties together to discuss how the hell we can prevent something like this from happening again. Or at least, make it such a rare occurrence in this country that it actually becomes a tragedy. Because right now, as horrible as it is to admit, incidents like the one in Connecticut are merely the scratched groove in a broken record that plays over and over and over again.

I don’t know what the answer is. Adam Lanza used his mother’s legally obtained guns. But I do know that when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, the country did something about it to prevent it from happening again. There’s ample evidence to suggest that maybe something needs to be done related to guns and mental health and yet, this country can’t even have a discussion about it.

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